Doug Wilson: “I am not defending the rapist.”

Last week, Doug Wilson wrote a provocative post, A Theology of Slut Walks, where he attempts to Newspeak (Dougspeak?) his way through defending a rapist while claiming not he’s not actually defending a rapist. Without getting into the twisted logic of his post, I thought there were a couple of quotes that were worth considering.

Those quotes are: “I am not defending the rapist.” And, “If somebody kidnapped and raped the most outrageous organizer of the worst slut pride event ever, I would want to see that rapist punished to the fullest extent of the law.”

Scripture teaches that we are known by our fruits. While it is commendable that Wilson would write the above, have his actions fit those words? What are Wilson’s fruits in regards to rapists?

Before we move on, we should consider the definition of rape. According to Doug Wilson, “I would define rape as having any kind of sexual relationship with someone apart from or against her or his consent.” I think that’s a good working definition. Given that definition, both Steve Sitler and Jamin Wight would qualify as rapists. They had sexual “relationships” with minors, who by definition cannot consent.

The question, then, is: what did Wilson do in regards to actual rapists in his community, not merely hypothetical ones in his article?

When Sitler and Wight’s actions came to light, and they were brought to court, Wilson chose to sit with the accused instead of the victims. Wilson also appealed to the court on behalf of both Sitler and Wight requesting leniency.

From his letter for Sitler:

I have been asked to provide a letter on behalf of Steven Sitler, which I am happy to do. . . . I am grateful that he will be sentenced for his behavior, and that there will be hard consequences for him in real time. At the same time, I would urge that the civil penalties applied would be measured and limited. I have a good hope that Steven has genuinely repented, and that he will continue to deal with this to become a productive and contributing member of society.

And from a letter for Wight:

We have told him [Wight] that it is appropriate for him to obtain legal representation in order to ensure that his legal and civil rights are fully respected, and to ensure that the punishment given to him is not draconian or disproportionate. . . . I also believe that it requires that I labor to see that justice really is done to Jamin (at the same time excluding injustice through severe penalties), as well as laboring to protect the Greenfields, particularly Natalie. (emphasis added)

Both Wight and Sitler plea bargained down to lesser crimes and received reduced sentences or less time actually in jail. After their brief incarcerations, Sitler and Wight have continued to benefit from Wilson’s support and defense.

Sitler was married off to a young woman from Wilson’s church. Wilson himself performed the ceremony. This was after a judge had to rule over whether or not Sitler could get married. Because in the normal way of things, marriages bring children, and convicted pedophiles can’t be trusted around children, even their own. The judge noted that there was no legal reason to deny the marriage, but that if children were born to the couple, then there would need to be a reevaluation of the living situation.

Last year, a baby boy was born to Sitler and his wife. Sitler has since been removed from the home:

In December 2014, Steven Sitler began failing polygraph questions about pornography. And in July 2015 he snapped the needle, failing multiple lie-detector questions. But polygraphs are not admissible in court and cannot be cause of action to revoke probation. Therefore, in July 2015 the judge put a “line of sight”restriction on Sitler, requiring one of his state-approved chaperones to be in the “line of sight” of Steven Sitler whenever he’s near his child. Sitler’s two chaperones were his mother and his wife.

However, in the last two weeks P&P revoked “chaperone” status from both women because they failed to notify P&P that Sitler advised them of some of his perversions. Consequently, Sitler does not live at his home until more chaperones can be found. Court meets again tomorrow (Tuesday, September 7, 2015).

Wight went on to marry a young woman in the community. They were married at Trinity Reformed Church (CREC) by Pastor Leithart. Wight abused and attempted to strangle his wife. Thankfully she survived and has successfully divorced from him.

But even with these dreadful circumstances, Wilson continues to defend Wight and Sitler and to defend his own actions in support of them. When the Sitler story broke this September, Wilson wrote an open letter defending his actions:

Katie and her family had all the facts when she agreed to marry Steven, which was important, but the decision to marry was the couple’s decision, not ours. That said, I officiated at the wedding and was glad to do so. . .

And when the Sitler story brought up the Wight story again, Wilson has written many, many words to defend himself and Wight and to blame the victim and her parents. Here is a portion of the letter Wilson wrote in 2005 on behalf of Wight seeking to lay the blame on the victim and her parents:

In our meeting the Greenfields (who had no idea of the sexual behavior occurring between Jamin and Natalie) acknowledged their sin and folly in helping to set the situation up. They did this by inviting Jamin to move in with them, encouraging and permitting a relationship between Jamin and Natalie, while keeping that relationship secret from the broader community. They thought (and were led to believe by Jamin) that the relationship was sexually pure, but they did know it was a relationship between a man in his mid-twenties and their fourteen-year-old daughter, and they helped to create the climate of secrecy. At the same time, their folly (as Pat Greenfield has aptly pointed out) was not a felony. It is not a crime to be foolish, while it is a crime to do what Jamin did. I agree with this completely, and in describing this aspect of the situation I do not believe it absolves Jamin of any responsibility for his behavior. But it does explain what kind of criminal behavior it was. For example, I do not believe that this situation in any way paints Jamin as a sexual predator. In all my years as a pastor, I don’t believe that I have ever seen such a level of parental foolishness as what the Greenfields did in this.

Natalie, the daughter mentioned above, was 13 years old when the abuse began. Wight, her abuser, was 23:

I was molested as a young teen. A man living under my parent’s roof, paying his rent by helping with the remodeling of our home, in training at Greyfriar’s Seminary to become a pastor , groomed me, sexually abused me, and molested me from the time I was 13 until I was 16 years old. He was 10 years older than me. A true monster; I was made to feel worthless, as though no one but he would ever love me. I was told that if I ever told anyone, it would ruin his life because people simply wouldn’t understand what we shared. I became an expert at lying to my parents. I was forced into sexual acts time and time again that no young girl should ever be subjected to. When I was 17 years old, a friend whom I had confided in (and who I am forever grateful to) convinced me to go to the police and press charges against my abuser.

Besides blaming her parents for “foolishness,” Wilson has also blamed Natalie for being a tall and beautiful young woman:

The reason we did not want it (the crime) treated as pedophilia is that her parents had bizarrely brought Jamin into the house as a boarder so that he could conduct a secret courtship with Natalie. So Jamin was in a romantic relationship with a young girl, her parents knew of the relationship and encouraged it, her parents permitted a certain measure of physical affection to exist between them (e.g. hand-holding), Natalie was a beautiful and striking young woman, and at the time was about eight inches taller than Jamin was. Her parents believed that she was mature enough to be in that relationship, and the standards they set for the relationship would have been reasonable if she had in fact been of age and if the two had not been living under the same roof.

Clearly in these two cases, Wilson has indeed defended rapists and has not sought for them to be prosecuted to the “to the fullest extent of the law.” Despite what he has written on his blog and in his books, Wilson chose to support, defend, and care for the rapists at the expense of their victims. I do not deny that even rapists need pastoral counseling, but taking the side of the abusers and blaming victims is not pastoral care.

In Scripture, Jesus told his disciples that there would be false teachers and that these false teachers would be known because of their fruit. Maybe we should all consider what Wilson’s fruits say about him:

Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’  (Matthew 7:15-23 ESV)

Theology has consequences

One of the reasons that Reformed theologians consider good doctrine important is that what we believe about God has a direct influence on how we act and behave. My college RUF pastor would say, “Orthodoxy leads to orthopraxy.” The corollary is that bad doctrine also has an effect. And it can show up in interesting ways.

Recently there have been news stories about Doug Wilson’s involvement in the wedding of a known, convicted pedophile. There is quite a bit of information out there regarding this, but I want to highlight just a few things. There will be many links that have more details if anyone is interested. [Probably the best summary is found at Wartburg Watch. Many of the links below come from that post.]

First, though, I want to consider some of what Doug Wilson has written that might give clarity to his actions. Not that I agree with his actions, but that it might help us understand what he’s done.

Doug Wilson teaches, in numerous places, that the cure for sexual temptation is marriage and having sex frequently with one’s spouse:

3. I am beset with sexual temptations. Does God have a solution for me? Yes. The love of a good woman who is willing to make love to you for the rest of your life. 4. But I am not married. What should I do about sexual temptation in that case? You should find out her name, and ask her. – Wilson, Douglas (2015-02-04). How to Exasperate Your Wife (Kindle Locations 951-955). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

And,

Now God has provided a very practical help for Christians as they struggle with sexual temptation; that help is called lawful sexual activity. In order to provide satisfactory protection, sexual relations with a godly spouse should be robust and frequent. There needs to be quantitative protection, particularly for the husband. At the same time, the benefit of sexual relations should not be measured merely in terms of frequency or amount. There needs to be qualitative protection, particularly for the benefit of the wife. – Wilson, Douglas (2009-04-01). Reforming Marriage (p. 22). Canon Press. Kindle Edition.

Doug Wilson also explains that in criminal issues in the church, like child abuse, the church decides whether or not to involve the civil authorities:

He [the pastor] should always (of course) be discrete, but there will be times when he has a moral obligation to inform the elders of his church, or in drastic circumstances, the civil magistrate. If a man has molested children who are in his home, then those children must be protected from him. Unfortunately, we live in a time when the social workers who rescue the children might treat them as unbiblically as their foster father did. This adds to the weight of the man’s sin—he has left them horribly unprotected. But there is a sense in which there is a biblical confidentiality. The decision to inform the civil magistrate is a decision which is made by the church and not by the magistrate. A worthy pastor would defy any subpoena which tried to force information from him. But if the situation warranted it, the subpoena would have been unnecessary because he would have already presented the information. – Wilson, Douglas (2011-03-07). Fidelity (Kindle Locations 1748-1757). Canon Press. Kindle Edition. (emphasis added)

What does this have to do with the wedding of a convicted pedophile? Well, I believe that Wilson’s ideas concerning the curative powers of marriage, and his belief in the primacy of the church in deciding how to address criminal behavior may have influenced his actions in the case of Steve Sitler.

In 2005, Steve Sitler was a college student at New Saint Andrews College. He had been boarding with area families while he attended college. In March 2005, he confessed to Doug Wilson to having molested very young children over a period of years, including in the homes he had boarded or visited. According to an article from the Southern Poverty Law Center:

Wilson and college officials told the newspaper that they had immediately kicked Sitler out of school and notified police of his crimes, but decided not to inform members of the public because of concerns for victims’ privacy.

Another news article from 2006 reports that Wilson requested leniency in Sitler’s case:

On August 19th, 2005, three or four months before notifying his parishioners of Sitler’s crimes, Doug Wilson wrote a letter on Christ Church letterhead to Judge John Stegner. In that letter, Wilson requested leniency for Steven Sitler, writing:

‘I would urge that the civil penalties applied would be measured and limited. I have a good hope that Steven has genuinely repented, and that he will continue to deal with this to become a productive and contributing member of society.’

Steven Sitler is sitting right now in the Latah County Jail, serving a one-year sentence. Twice a week, Sitler drives himself, unsupervised, to his court-ordered therapy in Clarkston and Pullman. For 18 months, Sitler was a member of the Moscow community. He was a student in good standing at New St. Andrews College. He was not then and is not now a registered sex offender: his face won’t appear on websites like Watchdog until he’s released back into the community — a community Doug Wilson seems to believe should welcome the return of Steven Sitler not as a criminal; not as a serial pedophile; not as a dangerous man, but as a repentant sinner.

Doug Wilson has written that he believes Sitler was delusional when he was molesting children. Wilson has no training in psychology or counseling, not even ministerial training. Wilson is not ordained. In response to criticism that he did not warn his congregation or the greater Moscow community in an adequate or timely fashion, Wilson writes: “I am a pastor. I cover up sins for a living.

According to the Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Sitler was sentenced to life in prison in 2006 but only served one year:

Sitler, 30, of Moscow, was sentenced to life in prison, with retained jurisdiction, in September 2006 under a Rule 11 plea agreement with the state for lewd conduct with a child under 16. He served one year with the Idaho Department of Corrections’ retained jurisdiction treatment programs and less than a year in the custody of the Latah County Jail before being released onto probation. Under the terms of his probation, Sitler is prohibited from associating with anyone under the age of 18 without supervision of an approved chaperone.

In 2011, Steve Sitler became engaged to a young woman from Christ Church, Doug Wilson’s church. Because of the terms of his probation, concern was raised about him marrying and having children:

The discussion amongst Latah County Prosecutor , Bill Thompson; Judge Stegner; and Mr. Wallenwaber, focused, in part,  on the legal consequence if/when Steven Sitler and Katie Travis have children.  It may be the case that Mr. Sitler will not be allowed to share a home with his wife and child or children.  This remedy may be utilized in Idaho when the father is a convicted pedophile. Judge Stegner ruled that the wedding could go forward and issues regarding the protection of children will be addressed if and children are a factor in the marriage.

On June 11, 2011, Steve and Katie were married by Doug Wilson. Last year, Steve and Katie had a baby. The terms of his parole required that Steve be chaperoned at all times when with his child. His wife, Katie, was one of the approved chaperones. It appears that these measures were not successful in protecting their child.

The news story this week states:

During Tuesday’s review hearing, Latah County Prosecuting Attorney Bill Thompson said the state originally requested a review of Sitler’s conditions of probation to provide guidance on how to move forward given the fact Sitler had fathered a child and the results of a polygraph test had disclosed concerning actions.

Thompson said information the court now has “shows (Sitler) has had contact with his child that resulted in actual sexual stimulation” Thompson said the incidents in question occurred while Sitler was chaperoned.

“In some extent the state’s worst fears appeared to be realized by some of the recent disclosures in the polygraphs,” Thompson said. “The actions that he has engaged in and disclosed are a compelling basis that he cannot have anything close to a normal parental relationship at this time with his child,” Thompson said. “Everybody would love for Mr. Sitler to become a normal person, but the fact is he is not. He is a serial child sexual abuser.” The best way to protect is to prohibit contact except in direct line of vision with a responsible, approved chaperone. At this point in time, that means he would not be able to reside with his wife and child.”

During a review hearing Aug. 1, Sitler was allowed to continue living with his son until a second review hearing could be held. However, during the past month, Thompson said, Sitler’s wife was disqualified as an approved chaperone for failure to report disclosures related directly to the couple’s son and Sitler was required to move out of their home.

This is a very sad and disturbing situation. Doug Wilson has promised that Christ Church will release a statement regarding these new developments. But at this point I’m not sure how his actions can be defended. I hope Wilson will reconsider his teachings on the sexual temptation and marriage as a cure. I hope he will reconsider the primacy of the church in deciding how to deal with these types of cases. And I seriously hope someone will act to protect this child.